BONUS: This edition contains an excerpt from Tom Piccirilli's The Last Kind Words.
This lyrical tale of evil, loss, and redemption is a stunning addition to the Southern gothic tradition of Flannery O’Connor and Harry Crews.
A Choir of Ill Children is the startling story of Kingdom Come, a decaying, swamp backwater that draws the lost, ill-fated, and damned.
Since his mother’s disappearance and his father’s suicide, Thomas has cared for his three brothers—conjoined triplets with separate bodies but one shared brain—and the town’s only industry, the Mill.
Because of his family’s prominence, Thomas is feared and respected by the superstitious swamp folk. Granny witches cast hexes while Thomas’s childhood sweetheart drifts through his life like a vengeful ghost and his best friend, a reverend suffering from the power of tongues, is overcome with this curse as he tries to warn of impending menace. All Thomas learns is that “the carnival is coming.”
Torn by responsibility and rage, Thomas must face his tormented past as well as the mysterious forces surging toward the town he loves and despises.
In this compelling Southern Gothic, Piccirilli (whose 2002 novel The Night Classhas grabbed the Stoker for Best Novel) presents a searing portrait of twisted souls trapped in a wasteland. Thomas, the wealthiest inhabitant of the swamp-infested county of Kingdom Come, a bastion of superstition and ignorance where he's simultaneously reviled and revered, lives with his brothers, conjoined triplets sharing a single brain who act as a sort of Delphic oracle. Thomas also shares a platonic relationship with his wife Maggie: the two were married by his best friend Drub, a black preacher with a penchant for nudity and prophecy. Into this jambalaya intrudes a northern film student (who falls in love with one of the triplets), a sexually precocious young girl from the swamps and a "dog kicker" who terrorizes Kingdom Come. When the local granny witches become agitated and accuse Thomas of neglecting his duties to the land, you can just bet there's plenty of trouble ahead. Piccirilli masterfully increases the tension by playing with stereotypes and manipulating the flaws of his subjects' characters, creating a world where what happens on the outside is a pale reflection of what goes on inside. As such, the novel will appeal both to genre fans and to readers of Flannery O'Connor and even of William Faulkner. James Lee Burke and Harry Crews devotees should also take note.